Many of you have already done what I am about to discuss, so for you: Yay on you! Well done.
Many writers, though, miss the essence of what will make you a successful author. They miss out on the gravy boat of life, simply because they make the same mistake I did when I started out: believing you can just write a book, have it published and rake in the millions.
Ever heard the expression 'starving artist' or 'starving writer'? I was very naive when I had my first book published, somehow believing that the wide world out there would just buy my book. No one knew me, but somehow my awesome epic fantasy novel was going to make it big.
So very, very naive.
I am not saying you are naive. But I was. As a writer who is working on their first book, and wow, sometimes writers that have so many books published, you cannot just sit and wait for the sales to come in. Unless of course you signed up with a traditional publisher that is doing all the work for you.
For the rest of you, who want to know how to make it big before you even publish your book, this is for you.
Disclaimer: I am sure on the internet there are very similar articles. Please note that I am not using any online or offline resources. These are all based on my own experience after 18 years in the writing industry. And today I want to share it with you. Please feel free to do more research online.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: WRITER VS AUTHOR
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You may have noticed that I use the terms 'writer' and 'author' above interchangeably. You may not know this, but there is actually a difference between the two terms. Huge debates have been held on what those differences are. I don't really believe there is a right or a wrong answer, but if you are in writing groups I suggest you agree to some common term definitions to avoid conflict.
Here is my perception on the difference between the two. Please feel free to quote me.
Writer: Someone who writes, whether it is articles, books, scripts, and has yet to publish their work. Represents the present and the future, in the act of doing.
Author: Someone who has written something that is now published, referred to the author of that work. Represents the past as something that has been done.
As a prime example, I am now currently a writer of this post in the act of writing it. Once I have pressed 'post' and this article goes live on Steemit, I can be referred to as the Author of this article.
BEING A SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR WHILE BEING THE WRITER
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I'm sure many of you must be confused and wondering "So if I am only a writer now, how can I already be a successful author since my work is not published yet?"
Have you ever heard this phrase?
Live like you're famous
Live like you're a successful author already. The things I'm about to show you reveal what you should be doing already while in the process of writing. When I first started writing my epic fantasy trilogy, the Celenic Earth Chronicles, especially when the Windfarer was published in 2007 and DragonRider in 2008 by a Vanity Publisher in America, I just sat back and waited. And waited. And waited.
MANY WRITERS ONLY FOLLOW THESE STEPS AFTER THEY ARE PUBLISHED. BY THEN IT IS TOO LATE.
By 2015, I still had not received any royalties from that publisher, or had no knowledge if anyone had actually read my books. How was I to receive feedback anyway? Did I make it easier for anyone to contact me?
In 2015, things changed for me. Or rather, I became the change I wanted to see in myself. I realised that I could not just sit back and expect readers to know my books were published and just buy them.
The following are things I applied from 2015 onwards that made Silent Hill: Betrayal a success even before I published it in October 2016. And I'm going to share them with you, as I would like you to receive the same success as I did.
1. PUT AS MUCH ENERGY INTO A BLOG AS POSSIBLE
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Please don't sigh so loud. I heard you from over here.
Yes, you have heard this so many times before, but you may not realise the effect a good blog has on a writer, and then later as a published author. Your readers want to know what you are working on. They want to know the thoughts behind the story. They want to know when the book is expected for release.
Do NOT underestimate the power of the blog.
I only started my blog in 2015 while I was working on Silent Hill: Betrayal. It was the first time the whole wide world was able to learn who the author Shaun M Jooste was. I was blogging about the horror novel a year before it was published, and months before I even started writing the first words of the first chapter. I was getting potential readers excited and angry about my novel before the planning stage even started.
Why angry, you ask?
Let's digress for a moment. Silent Hill is a game series published by Konami, which then was adapted into 2 films. Silent Hill fans are a contentious lot, and when Silent Hills was cancelled the fans were in an uproar and wanted no one to ever touch the franchise again.
So, when I announced that I was writing a Silent Hill novel, and even worse that local Konami distributors have given me permission to write and publish Silent Hill fanfiction novels, the internet (especially reddit) went into chaos. Most SH fans were wildly upset, while there were those in full support of me upholding the series and continuing the Silent Hill legacy.
It didn't matter. What mattered was that the world now knew who I was. My blog received massive views after the first announcement and throughout the life of the novel's development.
Your blog is the interface with the world. This is how you update your readers and provide them with important information. Yes, you can update them on social media (more on that in a moment), but a blog gives them more insight than any social media platform can.
Your blog is your personal home as a writer on the internet.
If you're smart, you can use Steemit as a personal blog. Steemit awards you financially when readers upvote your posts. That means you are already making a profit on your novel even before it is published, just by posting updates! Success as an author, getting paid for your novel before it is even out there! What more could you ask for?
For me, I still prefer to use Wordpress as my personal writing blog for novel updates, and use Steemit for intense articles on writing like the one you are currently reading.
2. ESTABLISH YOUR BRAND AS AN AUTHOR
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This is another vital element I overlooked in the beginning stages. It may seem menial, but a brand is very essential to defining the nature of your writing. It not only defines you as the author you will become, but everything you represent with your work.
Let's take a quick look at Clive Cussler, whose Dirk Pitt novels I immensely enjoyed. The main character, Dirk Pitt, works for and eventually becomes director in an organisation called NUMA, which stands for National Underwater and Marine Agency. There is a also a book series by him called The Numa Files. Furthermore, Cussler runs his own NUMA organisation in real life, recovering artifacts from the oceans. NUMA has become his brand.
Celenic Earth has become mine. It was taken from my epic fantasy trilogy that started me off as a published author. My publishing company is called Celenic Earth Publications, and all the divisions there in hold the Celenic Earth title. Even my brand logo holds an image of Earth in the background, with a book in the foreground.
When people speak of Celenic Earth, they need to know that author Shaun M Jooste is behind it. And that my main focus is novels above everything else I write.
I won't go into any extensive lesson on how to create your brand. I will leave that for another day. I just want you to be aware that creating a brand for yourself as an author is very powerful for everything you will be doing to get your book known, as you will notice further on in this article.
Just make sure that, once you have established your brand, logo and banner images, to update your blog with it.
3. CREATE THOSE AUTHOR PAGES AS A SUMMARY OF WHO YOU ARE
Even if you are not a published author yet, you can start creating those author pages. Start off with your blog. You can either create a page on your website that gives a quick bio of you and your writing, or use a tool that comes with your website to showcase your author bio.
Creating an author bio helps readers get to know you better. The more they know you, the more they would be willing to support your work.
If you know where your work will be published one day, you can create author bios on their platforms so that when your books are published then readers can click on the author name and be taken to the author pages.
I have a central author bio that I use for my social media platforms and here on Steemit, which was created on about.me. Here are more examples of my Author pages, which I created for every project I became involved in:
- Blog - a Wordpress page on my site
- Amazon - created on Amazon Author Central
- Smashwords - created on my Smashwords author profile
- Antreya Studios - created by the Antreya website team for my role in the game's development
- Lulu - created on Lulu's Author Spotlight
- Goodreads - created on Goodread's Author Dashboard
- AIR Entertainment - Wordpress bio for all my wordpress websites
Of course, there are thousands upon thousands of sites you can put your bio on. These are just examples of mine that I have used. Once your books are released, you can then link your books to these bio pages. It is so much easier to do if you create these pages first and then link the books when they are released. Potential readers will follow these pages for every update you release. So make sure to keep them updated.
4. GET HOOKED UP ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND WEBSITE PLATFORMS
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You know how your parents, teachers or boss told you to get off that phone and stop sitting on Facebook (enter your preference here) all day? I am telling you the opposite. Social Media has become so powerful that it is one of the most essential tools you will have as an author.
However, I have left this item late in this article for a reason. It is best of you only focus on this step once all the previous steps have been take care of.
AND HERE'S WHY
When you are running your blog live with updates, you have your author pages setup and your brand is established, you can utilise your social media platforms to keep them alive in the following ways:
- Blog: every time you publish a post, you can set up your site to share it to your social media platforms as soon as your articles go live.
- Author pages: You can create social media icons with links on your author pages so that people can follow you instantly. Also, on your social media platforms you can include links to your website and author pages.
- Author brand: Those logos and banners you created... these can now be used as icons and header images on your social media platforms.
You see, it is all very much integrated. And as an author you are not limited to just Facebook and Twitter. There are so many platforms you can use to update everyone, the choices seem limitless. And social media is such a wonderful tool to bring more and more readers to your website. Here are the ones I use:
And when you visit my blog, you can see social media links on the right sidebar for readers to follow me. Do yourself a favour though, keep a database of all your websites and social media platforms somewhere. If I didn't, getting the links for this part of this article would have taken so much longer.
5. FEED YOUR HUNGRY READERS
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Now that you have built up a lovely audience for your upcoming book, preparing everyone for that day you become an official published author, it's time to feed the hungry lions. While you are relying on manual methods so far, such as your website and social media feeds, there are three other methods to get the word out, two of which includes automated processes.
Most websites have a feeds URL. For instance, my blog's RSS feed is https://celenicearth.wordpress.com/feed . Most of the time you can just add /feed at the end of your URL and it will allow anyone to subscribe to your feed in their email or online service. You will have to research how to access or setup a RSS feed for whichever platform you use for a website, but having a RSS feed URL makes it easier for people to follow new posts from your website.
I don't really worry about RSS feeds, but many have them installed on Chrome as an extension and like to add RSS feeds to follow. So it is worth mentioning.
You can either manually email followers to your website that have opted to receive email notifications, or you can setup an automatic mailing services. Wordpress comes with a built-in newsletter where anyone that clicks on the 'Follow' button and provides their email address will instantly receive an email when you post again.
Even though I have wordpress, I like to run newsletter campaigns from Mailchimp. Mailchimp allows you to run special newsletter where readers can subscribe and receive something nice in return. For instance, with my upcoming dark fantasy novel, I have setup a Malum: Rise of the Deadly Sins newsletter where everyone that subscribes on the landing page will receive a free ebook copy when the book is released.
Here's one that requires some manual entry and is only slightly less automated than the others. Creating a press release for an event, such as the launch of your book, is one guaranteed way to get attention. There are platforms that offer to release your news for you for free, but you still need to set it up and type the article.
I utilise Prlog, which gives me stats for how many have actually read it. I've reached top news of the day, week and month several times through PRlog, and haven't really found another PR site that works as effectively.
6. GROW YOUR NETWORK THROUGH COMMUNITIES
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As an introvert, I used to keep to myself. I would not join Playstation gaming parties or Facebook groups. It was hard for me to socialise with others.
UNTIL I JOINED WRITING GROUPS.
I am now part of a vast number of writing groups on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads and Discord. It has been really invigorating talking to other writers and realising that they had to all learn the same lessons the hard way (which is one reason for me writing this post, truth be told).
By joining groups and online communities, you learn so much from others and, as in my case, I have the opportunity to teach others. Since I am already established as an author and publisher, many ask me for advice. And more often that not, through discussions I get to share news on my upcoming and published work without it reading like spam.
Being part of a network of writers, and other contributors like editors, cover designers, etc, can really be helpful towards establishing yourself. It is essential though that you find the right groups and steer clear of ones that just seek to bring others down while they uplift themselves.
Also important is to join groups that have something to do with your target audience. With my Silent Hill novel, I joined as many SH sites and groups as possible. I joined in on discussions, and only eventually made mention of my novel when talking about certain things. "Yes I agree, but that's why in my novel I decided to do this rather." "You have a Silent Hill novel????"
Boom! Got ya.
7. A LITTLE TEASING WON'T HURT ANYONE
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Now it's time for some pre-marketing. I won't deal with marketing after publishing in this article. It is essential that you 'tease' your audience that you have grown a bit.
Have a look at how advertising is done on the media, whether movies, television, newspaper or online. Get some ideas for what you can do. Be creative.
I like to create video trailers for my upcoming books using free online images, free sounds and then a free online movie maker. Also, lately I have been into creating teaser poster cards for my Malum book series. You can have a look at my Patreon page to see what I mean.
The more you tease them with what will be in your book, the more the interest will grow. Soon you will be inundated with subscribers, followers and readers who cannot wait for your to share the next part of your book. I haven't got as far as podcasts like other writers, but this is another way you can share something about your book with others.
8. GIVE THEM AN OPPORTUNITY TO BUY THE BOOK EARLY
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Alright. So you have your website, platforms, brand, bio, and a huge following.
Now is the time to offer the book for sale before you even publish it. Many sites, like Amazon and Smashwords, allow you the chance to setup preorders. If not, you can create Paypal or Payfast buttons on your site for them to order it directly from you.
Preorders can be very risky. You need to be loyal to your followers and follow through on orders placed and make sure they get their copies, otherwise you will receive a nasty reputation. It is best sometimes to leave preorders for others to establish for you, but in this way you can already see how large the interest is and how successful all your steps have been up until now. I never publish anything anymore without setting up preorders first, and I always provide rewards for those that preorder.
Thank you for reading my long and tedious article. I am sure you would not have read through it all unless you really wanted some advice.
The moral of the story: By following these steps, you have already become more successful than most authors out there. Hell, you can call yourself an author without that book being published, as you have authored all those articles on your blog and social platforms.
But please keep this in mind. There are various degrees of success. I didn't call this article 'How to Become a Rich and Famous Author Before You Publish Your First Book'. Even with all this work you put in, people might not actually care or might not like the idea of your story. Following these steps does not promise any sales.
It will help you become established as an author though and get more people to notice you. If you feel that you can do this alone without all this work... then trust me when I say no one will be interested. It's sort of like Steemit: don't just write posts and expect people to vote or like it. You need to grow in your community, get people to like what you write about, and the upvotes will happen by themselves.
I hope I managed to teach someone something valuable today. If you decided to follow my advice and follow these steps, please let me know how it goes in the comments. Also, if you want me to expand on any section in this article, let me know in the comments so I can follow up with that article just for you.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS POST, PLEASE CONSIDER GIVING IT A NICE BIG UPVOTE TO ENCOURAGE ME TO DO MORE OF THESE. A BIG THANK YOU TO THOSE WHO DO SUPPORT ME!!
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Shaun M Jooste
Joint-Owner: AIR Entertainment (https://airentertainment.biz)
Director: Celenic Earth Publications (https://celenicearthpublications.wordpress.com)
Author, Screenwriter, Gamewriter, Journalist (https://celenicearth.wordpress.com)